Bogdan Bogdanovic might be the Kings’ best rookie
Sacramento had a good offseason. Not only did they cover the loss of Scott Perry in the front office with another strong hire in Brandon Williams, but the talent Vlade Divac has sought out has all had a purpose.
When the Kings traded away DeMarcus Cousins at the deadline last season, Divac said that it was an effort to rebuild the team’s culture. Cousins had wreaked havoc in Sacramento’s locker room, and the team dynamic on the court was falling apart as a result. They needed a breath of fresh air, and that’s precisely what that trade yielded.
It’s what the Kings have done in lieu of that trade, however, that has led to such a positive evaluation of their team moving forward. All four of their draftees were picked for a reason, while their free agent additions followed the same trend.
Divac is legitimately stressing culture for the first time during his tenure as Sacramento’s general manager. De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason all went to top flight collegiate programs, where all four were lauded as high character individuals.
The youngster who they traded for in the Cousins trade — Buddy Hield — was thought of in a similar light entering last season’s draft.
On top of that, their free agency period yielded the signings of Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and George Hill. Carter and Randolph are two of the league’s most experienced entities at their position, while Hill gives them a highly productive veteran on a deal that won’t overlap with Fox’s timeline.
Every move had a reason, and every move was done in a manner that laid the foundation for success down the road, rather than inhibiting it.
Of all those positives, however, one move in particular is overlooked far too often — and that’s the addition of Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Bogdanovic was the 27th overall pick back in 2014, which set the bar far lower than where his developmental curve currently stands. If he was to be compared to the talents in the 2017 class, there’s a very real argument in favor of dubbing him the best international talent, rather than Frank Ntilikina.
Bogdanovic has enjoyed ample success during his time stashed overseas, playing a significant role offensively for one of the Euroleague’s most prestigious teams in Fenerbahce.
At 24 years of age, Bogdanovic averaged 14.6 points per game in 27.9 minutes, giving the team a dynamic perimeter scorer that, in many ways, helped spark what was inevitably a championship run for the Turkish club.
The Kings were able to convince Bogdanovic to make the leap this year, signing him to a three-year, $27 million deal. That’s the highest total ever given to a rookie, which speaks to just how badly Divac wanted Bogdanovic in Sacramento this upcoming season.
While there’s obvious value in high character players from top-flight schools, viewing Bogdanovic as anything less is shortsighted.
He was a key contributor to a premier professional franchise overseas, a far bigger burden to carry than the majority of the current Kings had to deal with.
He also played a significant role in Serbia’s success during the Rio Olympics, where they were silver medalists.
At 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Bogdanovic’s length should afford him some much-needed flexibility in Sacramento’s rotations. He has operated as the main ball handler in the past, yet his frame and the focal points of his game are best suited on the wing.
That length, however, gives Sacramento the freedom to start Bogdanovic and Hield, rather than compromising one’s development for the other. Bogdanovic is capable of guarding bigger threes — or the opposition’s best perimeter threat — while Hield can stick to the smaller guards.
His offensive fit, however, is what’s most intriguing. Sacramento hasn’t really found it’s leading scorer moving forward. George Hill could very well carry that status for the next couple of seasons, but Bogdanovic has the talent needed to shoulder that load long term.
While many tend to view Hield as the prospective go-to scorer for this Kings squad, Bogdanovic has a combination of size and diversity that Hield doesn’t quite possess.
While Hield may have the quicker first step — which is undoubtedly important — Bogdanovic has more control, both as a scorer and as a playmaker. His footwork allows him to leverage his length in isolation, while his decision-making is advanced well beyond Hield’s for the time being.
Bogdanovic is a dynamic pick-and-roll threat as well. His size gives him an innate advantage when looking for distributive opportunities, while his soft touch and excellent floater game allows him to get off shots with limited space around the painted area.
He won’t be the point guard — and he’s at his best when functioning as a spot-up shooter on the perimeter — but the Serbian’s ability to create for others and initiate the offense is incredibly valuable for somebody who could develop into one of the more viable scoring threats in this year’s rookie class.
Down the stretch of games — and the season as a whole — isolation play becomes exponentially more important. Players who can function within the constraints of a team’s system while still creating for themselves when needed are highly valuable.
In terms of NBA-ready talent, Bogdanovic is likely the best in Sacramento’s rookie crop — without much debate. He’s a more polished asset than Fox, while his scoring repertoire remains a level above that of Justin Jackson.
Bogdanovic has a legitimate shot to be the Kings’ go-to offensive weapon in multiple different sets next season. They were obviously willing to pay extra to obtain his services, and adding an elite international prospect with a well-credentialed resume at the age of 24 is nothing to scoff at.
In a Rookie of the Year race that figures to be loaded with high-end talent, the Kings’ likelihood of having a legitimate frontrunner feels slim. If they do, however, don’t be surprised if it’s Bogdanovic, rather than Fox, whose name is at the forefront of those discussions.
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